Talking the Talk (And Getting People to Listen)

Are you saying what you think you’re saying? And how could you say it better?

One of the most important things to do on your road toward professional success is find your voice. Didn’t know it was lost? Take a minute to think about how your coworkers think of you. Are you dependable? Intelligent? Pushy? Passive?

Having a strong sense of who you are and how you want to project yourself is crucial in improving the way people perceive you. This is applicable to every aspect of workplace relationships: first impression interviews, lunchtime conversations, important meetings with executives, and effectively answering emails. Here’s some advice from the experts on how to harness the power of perception through polished communication.

You’re no knock off, be your original self:

PBP’s founder Ed Satell advocates for the underrated value of authenticity. What you say should reflect what you do, and what you do should reflect what you say. He firmly believes that hard work and mental perseverance can inspire success, and he communicates that through the actions he takes in his business practices.

Authenticity is otherwise described as being able to “stand in your own truth,” and your voice should affirm whatever it is that you hold true. Julian Treasure, author of Sound Business, talks about how authenticity is a necessary and foundational cornerstone if you want to be taken seriously in the office and have your opinions heard. If people view you as authentic on a one dimensional, daytoday level—for example when answering questions like, how was your lunch? Or what is your favorite hobby?—you are inadvertently building credibility towards multidimensional responses. If you are consistently honest and genuine, your opinions will be perceived as such when you argue for significant, risk oriented change such as capital asset additions, or sustainable infrastructure investment, or adding pretzel M&Ms to the break room vending machine.

Once upon a time, storytelling changed everything:

This next piece of advice can only be taken with the first part in mind. [If not taken with the proper dose of authenticity, side effects may include gossip, lying, excuses, judging, exaggeration, and dogmatism]. If people can believe in you and what you say, what follows is getting them to support you and what you say. Storytelling is a very powerful medium in the business world that helps us connect with one another both intellectually and interpersonally. Geoffrey Berwind is considered a professional storytelling consultant. Some of his clients include Historic Philadelphia Inc, The Kennedy Space Center, UNUM Global IT Leaders. Berwind meets with executives to teach them how to better market themselves and their products through the art of a well-crafted story. He has based his life’s work on the fact that storytelling has everything to do with the power of influence, and this skill has become exponentially more valuable in the business world; maybe more so than your Excel or PowerPoint skills:

When we share our own real-life stories or the stories of others our audiences feel that they get to know us as authentic people – people who have lives outside the corporate setting, people who have struggled with problems and who have figured out how to overcome them. There’s a well-known marketing axiom that “people buy from people they know, like and trust.” Great leaders recognize that human connections need to go before concepts and strategies: connect first with your prospects, your audiences – then get down to business. I’ve seen increased attention being paid by companies to the mastery of these so-called “soft skills.”

These attachments and connections are then stored in our long term, rather than short term, memories. A story is up to twenty-two times more memorable than facts alone. They can be deepening and persuasive. They can be 140 characters, or they can be 540 pages. Learning how to craft them in the most powerful and effective way possible takes time and practice. Dannie Evans, a coworker in the PBP Media division, promotes professional development and learning by reading fiction, as it will teach them you how to tell stories. He suggests that storytelling is an important skill to have when crafting marketing copy, an incredibly valuable skill to have when marketing yourself to future employers.

Your voice box is a tool box:

The final element of the communication equation is your actual voice, your sound. Sometimes the genius of what we are saying is overshadowed by the unwanted idiosyncrasies of the way we say it. Your vocal register, timber, prosody, pace and pitch may be saying one thing while your words are trying to say another, which can get confusing for your listener. Like all problems, awareness is the first step towards a cure, and most people are unaware of their talking troubles (even if they are very apparent to everyone around them). Watch the video below, and Mr. Berwind will explain what all of these terms mean, how they affect your speech, and why we should focus on fixing them.

Take a little bit of time to study yourself. How do you communicate? Are you sending the same message that your coworkers are receiving? Hopefully if we all focus a bit more on what kind of voice we are producing, we can also be a bit more attentive to the voices that are trying to speak to us. Listening, after all, is just as important.